US Congress Has New Chance to Stop Horse Soring

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The Prevent All Soring Tactics Act seeks to strengthen the Horse Protection Act and enforce long standing animal welfare standards.

The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 3090, which aims to put an end to the cruel practice of horse soring, has been reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives with a strong bipartisan set of 185 original co-sponsors led by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. The bill amends the 1970 Horse Protection Act and would eliminate the failed system of industry self-policing, strengthen penalties against the soring of horses and ban devices that are integral to the soring process.

The PAST Act previously passed in the House in the last two Congresses by a wide bipartisan margin.

In enacting the Horse Protection Act in 1970, Congress intended to end soring, but the practice remains pervasive among some parts of the Tennessee walking, racking and spotted saddle horse breeds. Soring is the use of painful techniques such as chemicals, chains and stacked shoes to force horses to perform the artificial, high-stepping gait known as the “Big Lick,” to win prizes in horse shows. Now, over half a century later, the U.S. Department of Agriculture—which oversees enforcement of the Horse Protection Act—is still finding shocking numbers of horses subjected to soring.

During this time, other national governing bodies of equestrian sport have implemented rules to ensure the welfare of horses. By contrast, in the Tennessee walking horse universe, the leadership has spent decades blocking reform.

Over the past two decades, the USDA has repeatedly found evidence of widespread and continuous use of soring techniques and prohibited substances used to sore horses’ legs or mask evidence of soring. In addition, separate undercover investigations by the Humane Society of the United States have led to the arrest and conviction of a prominent trainer for violations of the Horse Protection Act and other laws and revealed evidence that the legs of every Big Lick horse at another prize-winning stable were being covered in prohibited substances. Despite these alarming findings, horse soring continues unabated in this faction of the industry. Most of the members of the Walking Horse Trainers Association board have faced citations for violating the Horse Protection Act.

“No horse should be forced to suffer for a blue ribbon,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “Despite the Horse Protection Act’s existence for over five decades, horses continue to suffer at the hands of those who prioritize profits and winning over welfare and integrity. It’s time for our political leaders to stand up for these animals and ensure that this cruel practice is put to an end once and for all.”

“Horse ‘soring’ is one of the worst cruelties imaginable—where scofflaw trainers deliberately torment Tennessee walking horses to get them to fling their front legs high, just to win a cheap blue ribbon in a show ring. It’d be like forcing an Olympian to wear broken glass in her shoes so the pain will make her leap higher over the hurdles,” said Sara Amundson, president of Humane Society Legislative Fund. “We are grateful to the steadfast House champions—Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, Steve Cohen, Vern Buchanan, and Jan Schakowsky—and to the many legislators who stepped up to demonstrate continued broad, bipartisan support for the PAST Act. We hope USDA will take note, too, and implement long-overdue reforms to strengthen its enforcement to end this torture.”

“The Big Lick faction perpetuates and rewards the cruel practice of horse soring, allowing it to thrive unchecked for decades,” said Keith Dane, senior director of equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States. “It’s time for Congress to put an end to this shameful behavior and hold these individuals accountable for the suffering they’ve inflicted on countless horses for their own selfish gain.”

In 2017, under Secretary Tom Vilsack, the USDA took a bold step forward by finalizing a rule to implement tougher regulations echoing key elements of the PAST Act. However, the Trump administration illegally withdrew the rule before its implementation, leading to a lawsuit filed by the HSUS and HSLF. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and remanded the case to the lower D.C. District Court to decide on the remedy, which plaintiffs hope will be reinstatement of the rule.

Meanwhile, with Vilsack serving as USDA Secretary once again, the agency has promised to publish a proposed new rule to strengthen its enforcement of the Horse Protection Act. New regulations are essential to end the suffering of horses subjected to soring.

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Founded in 1954, the Humane Society of the United States fights the big fights to end suffering for all animals. Together with millions of supporters, we take on puppy mills, factory farms, trophy hunts, animal testing and other cruel industries. With our affiliates, we rescue and care for tens of thousands of animals every year through our animal rescue team’s work and other hands-on animal care services. We fight all forms of animal cruelty to achieve the vision behind our name: A humane society. 

 Learn more about our work at Subscribe to Kitty Block’s blog, A Humane World. Follow the HSUS Media Relations department on Twitter. Read the award-winning All Animals magazine. Listen to the Humane Voices Podcast.

Humane Society Legislative Fund works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues and support humane candidates for office. Formed in 2004, HSLF is incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code as a separate lobbying affiliate of the Humane Society of the United States. 

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Media contact
Erica Heffner: 202-770-6575
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